The Role of a University College on Student Engagement

Cottrell, Robert, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Hampton, Mark, Cu-Leadshp Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia
Pusser, Brian, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Inkelas, Karen, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Turner, Sarah, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of University College at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) on student engagement. A university college is a comprehensive first-year college designed to support students as they transition into higher education. The concept of a university college often includes many programs and resources, such as advising, orientation, and general education that already exist on college campuses. However, university colleges create organizational structures that place them into one independent unit. Although much research exists on first-year student experiences, there are limited studies on university colleges. Additionally, research on student success is often based on grades, persistence, and graduation rather than on measures of student learning and development. The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) is used to determine the extent to which students engage in educationally purposeful activities. It has been argued that the survey’s results serve as proxies for institutional quality.

Astin’s (1991; 1993) Input-Environment-Outcome (I-E-O) model of student change inspires this study. A quantitative ex post facto design was used to determine whether VCU impacted student engagement during the first college year after the implementation of University College. Student input characteristics are included in this study to reduce bias in the analysis.

One research question guides this study: do first-time freshmen at Virginia Commonwealth University who were involved in University College report significantly different levels of student engagement compared with first-time freshmen at the same institution prior to the existence of University College?

The significant finding is that University College did positively affect some aspects of student engagement at VCU. However, the effect size of University College on student engagement was modest with an overall partial eta squared value of 0.085. Individual effect sizes were small for the significant dependent variables.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Higher Education, University College, First-Year Experience, FYE, Student Affairs, NSSE, Student Engagement, Post-secondary education, Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU, first-year college, first-year student, freshmen
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